Elon Musk throws out Twitter’s political advertising ban in a quest for revenue to save his floundering social media company

  • Elon Musk is lifting Twitter’s ban on political ads.
  • This ban was first put in place by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey.
  • Twitter is struggling financially, Musk has said. Billions are spent on political ads each year. 

Political advertising is returning to Twitter after a three-year hiatus.

Twitter will be “expanding” the amount of political advertising allowed on the platform and “relaxing” current rules around all “cause-based” advertising, the site’s safety department said on Tuesday. Political ads in their entirety have been prohibited on Twitter since 2019.

“Moving forward, we will align our advertising policy with that of TV and other media outlets,” Twitter Safety wrote on its Twitter account. TV advertising falls under the oversight of the Federal Communications Commission, which does not fact check any form of advertising, political or otherwise.

Previous Twitter CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey took a hard line to banning political ads, saying a “political message reach should be earned, not bought” and that the rise of political advertising online and the practice of microtargeting was creating “significant ramifications that today’s democratic infrastructure may not be prepared to handle.” These policies, which he put in place, are still available on its business website.

As a result of Dorsey’s policies, cause-based ads, like those promoting a specific action toward a predetermined outcome, have been limited on Twitter. Targeting an audience based on zip code, for instance, is currently not allowed, and groups that want to run cause-based ads need to commit to certain criteria. 

Since Elon Musk took over Twitter at the end of October, the company’s finances have deteriorated as brands and advertisers fled. Its business is based almost entirely on advertising, but under Musk’s chaotic reign, he let go 70% of Twitter’s staff, including most of the people responsible for monitoring the kind of user content ads appeared next to.

Musk has also continued to make controversial and political statements, leaving advertisers in no hurry to return. Now, the billionaire is looking for any way he can to cut costs and drive revenue. He’s compared the company to “a plane headed towards the ground.”

Political advertisers spend many billions of dollars a year. In 2022, digital advertising for all political campaigns in the U.S. exceeded $3 billion in the U.S., according to Insider Intelligence. More than $1.5 billion was spent in 2020, a presidential election year, mostly on digital ads and TV.

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